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While Feminism, as a movement and a term, did not become popularized in the West until the 1960s, Virginia Woolf can be considered one of the first "proto-feminists" of the 20th Century. In A Room of One's Own, she discusses the inevitable suffering that was the lot of women born gifted and intelligent.
In all previous eras, including Woolf's own, women had very few choices outside of marriage and motherhood; they were discouraged or prohibited from learning, working, voting, or owning property. Men might pursue their hopes and dreams, while women were constantly reminded of their proper "role." Woolf herself opposed such views, living an unconventional life.
In A Room of One's Own, a canonical text in feminism, Woolf asserts that intelligent women have been denied the expression of their talents, forced to spend their lives at menial domestic tasks. Woolf expresses this sentiment most clearly when she writes, "What mute inglorious Austin here lies?" a reference to Thomas Grey's famous meditation on unrealized genius, "Elegy in a Church Courtyard." Woolf, however, has replaced Grey's original reference to "Milton" (John) with "Austin," a reference to Jane Austin, a famous female English novelist. Woolf alludes to women's wasted potential, making her one of the West's first and most important proponents of feminism.
Virgina Woolf could most definately be considered a champion of women's rights, if not an outright feminist. For one thing she was bi-sexual and had several lasting relationships with women."Her most commercially successful novel, ORLANDO: A BIOGRAPHY, was dedicated to Vita Sackville-West, her lover." She wrote stories and essays that promoted the need of women to have more freedom and more chances to earn their own income. The most evident of these was her novella "A Room of One's Own.'"A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." Another basic feminist novel was"The Three Guineas" "Woolf’s changing representation of feminism in publications from 1920 to 1940 parallels her involvement with the contemporary women'movement (suffragism and its descendants, and the pacifist, working-class Women’s Co-operative Guild."
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